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Animal shelter’s euthanasia rate down

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Rescue groups credited with finding animals new homes

By Calen McKinney

Since formal rescue procedures have been adopted, no animals at the Taylor County Animal Shelter have been euthanized for overcrowding.

As such, officials say they believe the procedures are working and have been deemed the proper way for rescue groups to remove animals from the shelter.

Taylor County Fiscal Court's New Projects and Special Services Committee, which oversees operation of the shelter, met on Monday to discuss the status of rescue groups working with the shelter to ensure all dogs and cats there get new homes.

Magistrates Matt Pendleton and Tommy Corbin serve on the committee.

Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers and Taylor County Animal Shelter Director Jacob Newton also attended the meeting, as did some of those involved with creating the rescue procedures, including Harry Reif, Sharon Spurling and Kat Winters.

About 20 others attended the meeting, most of whom are members of the Taylor County SPCA group. The members didn't speak to the committee, though they asked that they receive a written response to some questions they mailed in a letter to magistrates.

Reif is former president of the SPCA and Winters is one of those associated with E.L.L.I.O.T. Rescue, Sanctuary and Rehoming in Campbellsville.

Reif told the committee that the procedures were formed with Newton's help and were formally written to ensure transparency and that all actions rescue groups are taking are "above board."

He said the volunteers were recently given a date in which animals at the shelter would be euthanized if they weren't adopted or rescued.

By that date, Reif said, not only did the 20 animals slated to be euthanized have homes with rescue groups, 10 others had homes as well.

Winters said, "We don't want Jacob to have to do it to make space."

Animals are euthanized, Reif said, if they are sick or injured and it is more humane to euthanize the animal than let them suffer.

Pendleton asked if any animals were euthanized before the rescue procedures were put in place. Newton said there were, but before rescue procedures were formed.

"Does everyone agree that this procedure is working to save animals' lives?" Pendleton asked.

Though no one spoke in response, the group nodded in agreement.

Reif said there is now a Pay Pal account associated with the shelter, so no money is exchanged between volunteers and rescue groups.

Reif said he, Spurling and Winters maintain the shelter's Facebook page, with direction from shelter staff members.

Veterinarians examine all animals and all fees are paid before an animal can leave the shelter, he said. Adoption fee is $100 and the rescue pull fee is $7.50.

He said the volunteers have arranged out-of-state transports, transports via airplane and have driven to several cities in Kentucky to ensure the animals get homes.

According to the rescue procedures, Winters is the rescue coordinator and Christina Perry is the local transport coordinator.

There are 12 steps to a rescue group actually rescuing an animal, according to the procedures.

The first is contacting the prospective rescue group. If they are interested in rescuing, they are directed to the shelter's Facebook page to review animals available.

They are to communicate their interest in an animal via Facebook and shelter volunteers review those requests.

Money is then transferred via PayPal and the rescue must have an account with a veterinarian to ensure all charges will be paid.

Volunteers will then discuss transportation with the rescue group and make necessary arrangements.

Rescue groups can either "rescue" the animal and pay the $7.50 fee, which doesn't come with all that is given when an animal is "adopted," or they can officially adopt the animal.

Since May 31, there have been 10 adoptions by various rescue groups and about 50 "rescues," which equates to more than $1,300 in revenue for the shelter.

To adopt an animal, a person needs to go to the shelter, complete some paperwork and pay a $100 adoption fee.

For the $100, the new pet owner receives a microchip with 30 days of insurance, rabies and parvo shots, deworming and a voucher for a spay or neuter. The owner is responsible for taking their new pet to a vet to be spayed or neutered.

Rogers said he believes Taylor County Attorney John Bertram should review the rescue procedures to see if they are legal.

Pendleton asked if the SPCA group has agreed to the procedures, which Newton said they have.

Paperwork must be completed when a rescue group receives an animal and it must be reported when the animal arrives at its final destination.

Reif said problems in the past have arisen when someone claimed an animal's condition was poor when they received it, when the animal was actually healthy. Documentation of the condition, he said, has eliminated that problem.

"And it's protection for us," he said.

Animals traveling out of state, Reif said, must travel with a certificate that verifies the animal is healthy.

Reif said he wants the committee to know that anyone can rescue animals and he and the other volunteers haven't tried to keep anyone from doing so.

Newton said there is a list of approved rescue organizations the shelter works with and volunteers have helped research others to see if they are reputable.

"We are constantly looking for rescues," Reif said.

He said he and the other volunteers do research about all rescue groups and make sure their operation is run like a business, their paperwork is in order and that their facilities are clean and with enough space.

Reif said he and the other volunteers are also working to ensure all paperwork is being done correctly at the shelter. When he was involved with the SPCA, he said, that was something he routinely talked to shelter staff members about.

"You know this was a problem for me," he said. "I'm not gonna let it not be right."

Winters said many of the rescue groups are willing to pay for vet and other costs out of their own pockets. And that means there is money coming into the community as a result, she said.

"We're starting to accomplish good things."

Corbin said he can sense that there has been some separation between the SPCA group and some of the shelter volunteers. He said some SPCA members have expressed that they don't feel they are welcome to rescue animals.

Newton said some SPCA members have created problems at the shelter.

Nevertheless, Reif said, everyone is welcome to rescue animals. All that is asked, he said, is that those doing the rescuing follow the proper procedures.

Winters said she, Spurling and Reif haven't done anything without Newton's permission.

"Every step we do is authorized by Jacob," she said. "It has to be done his way."

Spurling said she isn't sure what the SPCA members want to accomplish, because they haven't helped her, Reif or Winters at all with coordinating rescues.

Reif said most of the rescue groups go through him, Spurling or Winters to be verified before actually rescuing animals, but they can also communicate with the shelter directly and shelter staff can research them.

Pendleton asked if anyone has heard any comments lately about how the shelter is operating.

"I've heard nothing but good things about how it's being run," he said.

Reif said there were some negative comments made some time ago, but those have been addressed.

Before adjourning the meeting, Rogers asked if SPCA members wanted to address the group. A representative said the group only wants a written response to its questions, which Pendleton said were answered during the meeting.